Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform is getting a slew of significant changes this fall alongside the company’s standard annual updates of iOS 13 and iPadOS.
While it isn’t a standalone operating system along the lines of iOS or macOS, Apple is still updating HomeKit with several new features that will take your home automation to the next level.
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Here are the features you can expect.
HomeKit Secure Video
Apple’s has increasingly expanded its focus on privacy in the past few years. And this fall, Apple is introducing a new feature to HomeKit that will make home cameras much more private and secure.
It’s called HomeKit Secure Video and it’s essentially a way for the HomeKit platform to process and store videos.
As long as you have a camera supporting HomeKit Secure Video, your camera’s feed will be automatically processed to the cause of motion — whether cars, pets or people.
HomeKit Secure Video will then encrypt your camera feed and send them to iCloud, where only the owner of the camera or invited guests can view them. That means not even Apple can see your security feeds.
That obviously seems like a reaction to news that other camera security companies had employees that could view private camera feeds. S if you’re concerned about your camera privacy, a HomeKit Secure Video camera will be a good option.
Here are some other quick facts about the platform.
- No subscription fee. You won’t need to pay any monthly fee for HomeKit Secure Video. Apple is providing 10 days of recording completely free. On the other hand, you’ll need an existing 200GB or 2TB iCloud storage plan.
- It won’t use your iCloud storage. Despite the fact that you need to pay for a 200GB or 2TB storage plan, HomeKit Secure Video won’t actually count toward your monthly iCloud storage.
- You may not need a new camera. Not all cameras will support HomeKit Secure Video, but popular manufacturers like Netatomo and Robin Telecom have pledged to roll out support when the HomeKit features launch.
Security cameras won’t be the only internet-of-things device getting an upgrade this fall. Apple is also making some major changes to router technology.
At WWDC, Apple announced that HomeKit-enabled routers will also be released down the road. These routers will sport a number of tangible privacy and security benefits over more standard wireless devices.
For example, HomeKit routers will automatically create a firewall between the devices on your network. That makes it much less likely for a single IoT device in your household to become part of a large-scale botnet attack.
Users will also have the final word on which devices are able to communicate each other — or with a third-party server through the internet. There aren’t currently any routers that support HomeKit, but LinkSys, eero and Charter Spectrum have all announced that HomeKit routers are coming.
It isn’t clear if existing routers will be able to support HomeKit. It’s also unclear if a router will be able to act as a home automation hub, but it’s unlikely.
More minor updates
In addition to HomeKit Secure Video and HomeKit routers, Apple is making a slew of other changes to its home automation platform. That includes updates to the Home app and the underlying HomeKit API.
- Automation updates. Users can now add other devices to automations, including an Apple TV and AirPlay 2-enabled speakers.
- Revamped Home app. There are some visual changes to the Home app, as well as some minor tweaks to various menus and interfaces. Colored lights and thermostats are getting a revamped control screen, for one. And devices that have multiple sensors will get those individual sensors grouped into a single category. Home hubs, including both first- and third-party hubs, are now grouped together into a single category.
- Support for Siri Shortcuts. The Shortcuts app, which is now native in iOS 13, can be used for a variety of different HomeKit-related tasks. That includes setting up automation to trigger when specific Shortcuts are run. You can, for example, create an automation. That turns on your lights and plays your morning news when you hit snooze on your alarm.
- Contextual CarPlay additions. Users will now be able to add some HomeKit actions to CarPlay. A notable example would be a scene that opens a garage door when you arrive at your home.
- Scene suggestions. Similar to the way that Shortcuts will suggest routine automations, the Home app will now suggest scenes based on your usage and the devices you have connected to HomeKit.
HomePod firmware updates
While HomePod isn’t required to create a HomeKit-enabled home, it’s probably a popular automation hub choice for those deep in the Apple ecosystem.
Because of that, it’s worth going over some of the upcoming upgrades to the HomePod firmware. There are some major additions here.
- Multi-user support. HomePod will, for the first time, support multiple user profiles in the fall. HomePod will now be able to tell different people apart by recognizing their individual voices. And yes, you can create distinct preference profiles based on that.
- Handoff updates. Apple will also update HomePod with several features and integrations that allow it to work more seamlessly with its other devices. You can now “handoff” audio playback or phone calls to a HomePod just by tapping the top of the smart speaker with an iPhone.
- HomeKit and Shortcuts integration. HomePod will also be more tightly integrated with some of the changes to Siri and HomeKit that we’ve covered. Users will be able to add HomePod to scenes and automatons, create distant workflows with Shortcuts and see new controls and currently playing content in a new Home app interface.
When can I get these updates?
Many of the additions and changes to HomeKit and the Home app are included in the upcoming iOS 13 update.
While Apple hasn’t announced a specific release date, iOS 13 should launch shortly after a keynote announcement event sometime in September.
You actually try out some (but not all) of the features now by downloading one of the iOS 13 betas. But, as always, we don’t recommend that you do so on your daily driver devices.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.